Regional Artist Profile: Cindy Poole

Regional Artist Profile: Cindy Poole

Regional Arts WA

Picture that bottle of wine you had with dinner last night. Now, instead of throwing it away, imagine how many ways you could repurpose just that one bottle. For Esperance glass artist Cindy Poole, the possibilities are endless.

Self-taught artist Cindy Poole uses heat harnessed from the depth of her kiln to transform glass into an array of unique, distinctive and functional works. Inspired by the raw beauty of the Esperance coastline juxtaposed with the surrounding Goldfields region, her striking home décor, wearable art, sculptural and functional pieces take a zero-waste approach to glass recycling. When Cindy looks at a glass bottle, she sees opportunity.

Cindy holding an empty bottle, surrounded by crates of empty bottles. Cindy amongst the glass bottle waste. Photo by Dan Paris, courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Glass artists have traditionally steered away from recycled bottle waste with a belief it holds low market value and it’s associated compatibility and labour intensive processing challenges. Cindy Poole: Recycled, is here to challenge those perceptions. Although glass is infinitely recyclable, only 56% of the glass we use in Australia is recycled each year. While container deposit schemes have been introduced to tackle this issue, many glass bottles remain exempt and what ultimately happens to the bottles collected through the scheme? That’s where Cindy comes in.

A circular philosophy drives Cindy to provide tangible solutions to lowering environmental impacts. Rather than just using a bottle once, and throwing it into a landfill, Cindy’s practice focuses on the different ways a bottle can be reused, repurposed and recycled. In a perfect world, people would recover it and buy it back – closing the loop of the circular economy.

Bright blue carafe, glasswear, bottle, and whale scultpure on the sands of the beach Recycled ‘Sapphire’ range inspired by the waters of Esperance made from recovered spirit bottles. Photo by Cindy Poole.

Having been a physical education teacher for 10 years, becoming an artist was somewhat of an accident for Cindy. She never intended to be an artist, or even have a business, it just happened. Then it became something she wanted to do.

Growing up in Wooroloo, Cindy met her now-husband while studying for a human movement degree at the University of Western Australia. Having already decided to get married, she had no idea where they would be setting down roots. At the time, teachers could be sent anywhere in Australia to work – even if they were married!

Then they got the phone call. A dual offer to teach in Esperance. Cindy didn’t know much about Esperance, but her husband did and told her, “Get on the phone and tell them we’ll take the position.” 

Two models sitting on the sand at the beach Recycled Jewellery. Photo courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Esperance became home and the pair taught until it was time to start a family. Wanting to be there when the kids came home from school each day, Cindy never went back to teaching. Instead, she started on her long journey of development as an artist.  

Cindy’s first introduction to the world of glass came when the couple built their mudbrick home in the mid-’90s. She didn’t want to hand all the work over to a builder, she wanted someone to hand her the spanner to create her dream home. Early creations from this time are still featured in her home, from stained glass window murals, fused panels, and handcrafted picture frames.

Inspired by the beauty and scope of glass as both an artistic and functional medium, Cindy decided to explore it as an alternative to a career in teaching; a new income stream while she was home with her boys. Her friends, family, and even strangers recognised her affinity for glass and began to make requests.

Cindy has since gone on to open her glass gallery and workshop, located on Longbottom Lane near Pink Lake, which has now been operating for more than 25 years!

Working regionally hasn’t been without its challenges. Cindy has had to be mindful of her remoteness, and her practice has been influenced by the commercial reality of finding a balance between design merit, functionality, concept and saleability.

Cindy wearing a hard hat and hi-vis vest Creating the Esperance Whale Tail. Photo courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Through hard work and perseverance, she has made a name for herself. If you’ve visited Esperance since 2014 you have probably seen her work!

The Esperance Whale Tail, a stunning sculpture made from steel, jarrah and glass has been a crowning moment in Cindy’s career. The project, a collaboration with designer and sculptor Jason Wooldridge, is now an iconic and permanent fixture on the Esperance foreshore.

 Esperance Whale Tail. Photo by Rod Weston, courtesy of Cindy Poole.

In another memorable career moment, Cindy remembers being invited to be part of Artistar Jewels. The international jewellery exhibition is held in Milano, Italy, and provides artists a chance to network have their work seen by people all over the world.

“Cindy is for us the representation of a unique design that employs different materials processed in a very vanguard way… that her creations are to us an extension of the Australian culture using a range of different materials. – Artistar Jewels 2017

Collaboration has been a constant theme in Cindy Poole’s work, and she has recruited some affectionately named ‘Shed Elves’ to help in her workshop. These extra hands have been trained to understand the glass process intimately and reproduce some of the amazing recyclable products sold through the gallery.

Allowing her ‘Shed Elves’ to take over assist in the production of these pieces has allowed Cindy to lower her environmental impact and scale her practice to reap the benefits. She has more time to design, create sculptural pieces and commissioned work to enhance the value associated with the whole project.

Cutting a glass bottle Cindy on the diamond saw. Photo by Ben Murray, courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Cindy has also been able to build relationships with local cafes and hotels who are wanting to reduce their environmental impact. She has provided an alternate recovery stream for glass bottle waste and nearly 5,000 bottles have been redirected to her in varying shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. Each bottle reacts differently in the kiln, and each can be used to make something amazing.

Thicker champagne bottles are used to make beautiful, sculptural, leaf-like organic serving dishes, whilst long slender bottles can be cut on an angle to make a beautiful carafe. Striving towards ‘Zero Waste’, the offcuts can then be turned into ring holders for her jewellery range. Specific bottles, such as the beautiful hexagonal Roku Gin bottles even make perfect hand sanitiser pumps.

 Sculptured Platter, ‘Eucalyptus Series’, made from recycled bottles. Photo by Cindy Poole.

If each business replaced just one of their plastic hand sanitiser bottles from the front counter with a refillable glass bottle, not only will each bottle be saved and given a second life but will collectively take thousands of single-use plastic pumps out of the plastic waste cycle.

Recycling glass bottles can also be a pathway to recovering bottles that hold special memories or significance. Invited to a recent wedding, Cindy collected dozens of glass bottles and turned them into a big, beautiful statement bowl which became a unique gift for the newlyweds.

 Cindy Poole Glass Gallery – Artist Reflection (Crushed recycled bowl). Photo by Dan Paris, courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Even mistakes can become treasures. After a kiln malfunction destroyed $3,000 worth of product, turning it into a giant blob of glass, Cindy was left disappointed thinking it would be worth nothing. She moved it to her garden to cool down, where a man stumbled across it. He loved it and asked if she would sell it to him.

With so much interest in her work, Cindy will soon be offering Discover + Create tours in her gallery. These weekly tours will offer people an immersive insight into the business, glasswork, and what it takes to be a commercial glass artist. Not only will people get a full behind the scenes look at the gallery, but they will get to zero-waste a bottle of their own to take home!

 Cindy in her happy place, at the workbench. Photo by Oeter Kovacksy, courtesy of Cindy Poole.

Going forward, Cindy is passionate about building a collective of clients who are keen to embrace her sustainability project and is looking for designers to collaborate with. She hopes the complementary skills of others can help raise the scope of her designs, and together they can create change.

For more information on Cindy Poole, visit her website. Or follow her social mediaFacebook and Instagram. To contact Cindy, email or phone the gallery on 0497 714 059. Otherwise, pop in to see Cindy and the shed elves at work at her studio located at Lot 5, Longbottom Lane, Esperance.

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